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Home > Authors > D.T. NEAL / DAVE NEAL

Born in Missouri, growing up in Ohio, and settling in Chicago, D. T. Neal has always written fiction, but only got really serious about it in the late 90s. He brings a strong Rust Belt perspective to his writing, a kind of “Northern Gothic” aesthetic reflective of his background.

Writing his first novel at 29, he then devoted time to his craft and worked on short stories, occupying a space between genre and literary fiction, with an emphasis on horror, science fiction, and fantasy. He has seen some of his short stories published in “Albedo 1,” Ireland’s premier magazine of speculative fiction, and he won second place in their Aeon Award in 2008 for his short story, “Aegis.” He has lived in Chicago since 1993, and is a passionate fan of music, a student of pop culture, an avid photographer and bicycler, and enjoys cooking.

He has published seven novels, Brighteyes (Shutterclique #1), Saamaanthaa, The Happening, and Norm—collectively known as The Wolfshadow Trilogy—Chosen, Suckage, and the cosmic folk horror-comedy thriller, The Cursed Earth. He has also published three novellas—Relict, Summerville, and The Day of the Nightfish. He has also published two collections— Singularities, a collection of science fiction stories, and The Thing in Yellow, a collection of King in Yellow mythos-based stories.

He co-edited THE FIENDS IN THE FURROWS folk horror anthologies, The Fiends in the Furrows: An Anthology of Folk Horror, The Fiends in the Furrows II: More Tales of Folk Horror, and The Fiends in the Furrows III: Final Harvest.



• 2008 Aeon Award, Second Place for “Aegis”
• 2009 Honorable Mention, “Best Horror of the Year,” edited by Ellen Datlow for “Aegis” and “Rotgut.”
• Runner-up, 2013 Best New Novel by a Chicagoan, Chicago Reader, for “Suckage”
• Shortlisted for the 2012 Aeon Award for “Day of the Nightfish.”



NP: Tell us about BRIGHTEYES!

DN: Wow, where to begin? It’s a kind of comedic homage to the comic books and superheroes I loved as a kid. I was an active collector from the late 1970s through the mid-1980s—the X-Men, the Fantastic Four, the Avengers, Captain America, Daredevil, etc. All of those series that were eventually made into television shows and movies—they drew from storylines I remember reading back then. BRIGHTEYES is a loving nod to those comic books, as well as a knowing parody of the superhero genre.

NP: Parody? How so?

DN: There are two primary protagonists in the series—Mitch Paulsen (aka, Cameraman), and Anna Victor (aka, Victoriana), and they both represent aspects of my fandom. Mitch has no superpowers, and he isn’t a fan of supers. He’s built an entire superhero identity out of his absence of powers—Cameraman, basically the ultimate investigative journalist (that’s how he sees himself). Mitch is a worldly, cynical, sarcastic smartass—he epitomizes a kind of “been there, done that” attitude. He uses technology to spy on bad guys, outing them for their corruption through surveillance.

NP: He’s kind of a super spy?

DN: Yeah, sort of. He’s like the world’s most determined paparazzo—except instead of going after celebrities, he targets politicians, corporate leaders, and gangsters. Mitch’s thing is making sure those who think they can get away with evil/criminality/villainy get justice served, overwhelmingly through his surveillance work.

NP: That’s dangerous work!

DN: For sure. That’s why Mitch relies on some stealth-type technology. He has a super-suit that lets him become various shades of invisible, and he zealously guards his secret identity. I think of him kind of like Batman but without being rich. He depends on his best friend/frenemy, Shane Grey (aka, the Knack), who is a trillionaire philanthropist, a genuine do-gooder who’s incredibly lucky, like supernaturally lucky. I can talk about Shane more later, but Mitch has this love/hate friendship with Shane, who’s literally “got it all”—while Mitch focuses on street-level superheroism, more on the level of Spider-Man, Daredevil, and the Punisher.

NP: But no powers?

DN: Only tech-derived.

NP: Got it. What about Anna Victor?

DN: I don’t want to get into spoiler territory, but Anna Victor is, at least in the Shutterclique universe, the ultimate do-gooder. She’s everything Mitch is not, in the sense that she’s superpowered and is spunkily idealistic. If Mitch is an unflinching voyeur of the evil that men do, Anna’s a passionate pursuer of justice, with the power to take on literally anybody. Her alias of Victoriana represents her commitment to superheroism. I love Anna! She’s adorably pugnacious—she’ll take on anybody, but she does so with an innocence that offsets her raw power, which is considerable. Mitch and Anna hit it off right away—they have amazing chemistry, and they offer this amusing juxtaposition for me, in that Mitch is the unpowered superhero know-it-all, and Anna’s the smart, plucky superheroine who can flatten the bad guys with her flying fists. Mitch loathes just about all supers, except for Anna; he loves Anna.

NP: So, it’s a love story?

DN: In many ways, it is. It’s a romance in the old-school notion of romance—two heroic characters who love each other and are trying to bring justice to the world in unconventional ways. Mitch is a surveillance samurai, and Anna’s a high-flying ronin.

NP: But the book’s called BRIGHTEYES…

DN: Yes, Brighteyes is a key character in this one. There’s an elite superhero group called The Affiliates—they’re akin to the Avengers, in that they represent the top of the superhero prestige teams in this world. Anyway, Brighteyes is a member of that team, but she’s apparently gone rogue, in that she’s taken to hunting (and killing) supervillains. Brighteyes has these great green eyes that allow her to see in the dark, see through walls, and also fire deadly eyebeams that can disintegrate targets if she wants to.

NP: She sounds fierce!

DN: She is! Brighteyes is no-nonsense. She’s like the Punisher, except she uses eyebeams instead of bullets to deliver her vigilante justice. I’ve always loved eyebeams—from Superman and Supergirl’s heat vision, to Cyclops and his optic blasts, to Homelander’s murderous eyes. There’s just something magnificent about eyebeams, and with Brighteyes, it was just a natural fit for her.

NP: You mention Homelander (from THE BOYS). Was he an inspiration?

DN: Actually, no! There is a bunch of characters in BRIGHTEYES and the others books in the trilogy that I’ve had developed nearly 30 years ago! When I was a kid, I wanted to draw comic books—I had (and have) the classic HOW TO DRAW COMICS THE MARVEL WAY and I’d draw characters, but my talent is in writing, not drawing. So, nearly all of the characters in this trilogy are ones I’d created long ago, and even tried to give life in book fragments and short stories, but they never clicked, so I just kept them marooned in my cranial Casablanca until I could airlift them out of there.

NP: What triggered that airlift?

DN: Unemployment (laughs). After working steadily for 30 years, I was unfortunately laid off and I found myself with decent severance and no job. I was devastated and in a place where I couldn’t write anything—another first for me, like a 15-month fallow period where I was such a wreck I couldn’t even write anything. Sometime in the course of that time, I got into a rhythm where I would apply for jobs (and get either ghosted or rejected over and over again), but I also realized that, at least while the money held out, I was given a gift of time, which any writer knows is precious. I told myself I could just apply for jobs all day and mope about my misfortune or apply for jobs in the morning and write books in the afternoon. Then I just dove in and blazed through this trilogy. I wrote BRIGHTEYES in two weeks, INFERNA (Book 2) in a week, and TANTRUM (Book 3) in a week. I wrote them faster than anything I’ve ever written. It just flowed and the characters I’d held in my head for so long were racing to the page! I felt good about that, because I’d always wanted to find a home for them, and I did.

NP: That’s a really quick turnaround for novels! Given how complicated the stories are, did you outline?

DN: No! I never outline. On a first draft, for a story to entice me, I have to have that organic sense of mystery to propel me: “What is this story about?” I trade that open-endedness for speed and flow, counting on being able to rewrite and revise my way out of trouble if I get into any. Another first for me with this trilogy is I wrote them all in sequence—one after another—so I’d be able to maintain continuity and vibe and character from book to book, without any breaks for me as a writer. I think of it how Peter Jackson shot the LORD OF THE RINGS movies—one after another, in a massive production. On my much-smaller scale, that’s what I did with these, and I think it works for them. The “vibe” is right from book to book.

NP: What do you hope readers will get out of BRIGHTEYES?

DN: A lot of fun, a lot of laughs, and even tears. There are some really tearjerker moments for me in BRIGHTEYES that I hope readers will feel, too. While the book honors and mocks the superhero genre, there’s a lot of heart in it as well. Mitch is sincere in his desire to bring justice to an unjust world, and, for him, the crowning injustice is that he has no superpowers to make things right. All he has is a sharp mind, a keen detective’s eye, and a desire for justice. Mitch is an everyman surrounded by gods, godlings, demons, and devils—his humanity anchors him as a character, even though he’s outmatched at every turn. I can relate to that, and think readers will, too.

NP: Would you rather this be a graphic novel?

DN: I can’t say that I don’t someday have a vision of the series as graphic novels. That said, I also love that they’re novels. I tried to keep them all around 80,000 words, so they’re novels, but not bricks. They’re ideal for quick reads, and I was very kinetic in the prose, making them feel cinematic and action-driven, while making them first person so readers could ride in Mitch’s mind while he’s going through everything in BRIGHTEYES. One thing I did was have Mitch constantly break the fourth wall (nod to DEADPOOL, here), where he’s speaking to the reader (“Gentle Reader”) and clearly knows he’s being read and observed, throwing off witty asides as he navigates this superheroic world he’s in. I enjoyed having that there for readers, so they might feel like they’re immersed in this mad world I’ve made.

NP: Does Mitch know he’s a character in a book?

DN: I never come out and say that, but he clearly knows something is up. His excuse is he’s writing his memoirs and is letting readers in on his thoughts as they’re happening. That immediacy makes it an entertaining read from my perspective.

NP: You’ve written, what, 19 books with Nosetouch at this point? Have you stepped away from horror?

DN: Yeah, I mean, I have a couple more horror books to write at some point, but I really enjoyed throwing myself into the SHUTTERCLIQUE world, which is lighthearted, heartfelt, serious, silly, funny, and above all, fun. It’s a very colorful, vibrant world. That’s something I can’t say of my horror writing (it’s always fun, but the shroud of horror hangs heavy over it—bad things are going to happen to the characters, and doom looms. That’s what horror is). I always felt like I was too optimistic and even humorous for horror. Or my humor would creep into that work and make it more “Dark Urban Fantasy” than outright horror. THE CURSED EARTH (2022) was a bit of that mask slipping for me—creating a cosmic folk horror world that wasn’t dreary, but what was visually interesting and just a lot of fun! It helped me segue into SHUTTERCLIQUE.

NP: “Shutterclique” is a great name! Tell us more!

DN: The Shutterclique is Mitch’s answer to the Affiliates—they’re kind of the superheroic misfits of this world. Maybe not as much as, say, THE MYSTERY MEN (a movie I love!), but they are still more street-level than cosmic-level superheroes. The Shutterclique might be the team you want when you’re dealing with some neighborhood or municipal problems. Save the Affiliates for the world-crushing opponents, if they can fit you into their busy schedule. This universe definitely toys with THE BOYS (minus the dark bro cynicism and gore), INVINCIBLE (again, minus the abundant brutality), KICKASS (minus the apparent absence of superpowers), and others. SHUTTERCLIQUE serves up superpowers, cartoonish heroes, nasty supervillains, but also a very Generation X feeling of alienation and rebellion. They’re my Generation X-Men, except that the Shutterclique are all younger than the Xers—they’re all in that magical age range between 20 and 40, when one’s life’s most full of opportunities for awesomeness, more so if one can fly through walls.

NP: What time period are these books in?

DN: I actually don’t make that clear—it’s clearly 21st century, but I don’t draw a line when it takes place, beyond some pop cultural touchpoints. That was deliberate, mainly because so much is going wrong in America these days, any story that hewed too closely to the real world would immediately have readers wondering why the superheroes weren’t laying into insurrectionists, fascists, and politicians deep in the pockets of certain foreign autocrats. I am a very political writer, and slip in some political observations and commentary here and there, but this series is much more arm’s length about that. It’s kind of like when 9/11 happened—the comics publishers at the time rushed to write 9/11 stories, trying to account for why their superheroes failed to stop 9/11 from happening, and having them horsewhip themselves or tie themselves in knots for their failure to prevent that from taking place. That’s an awkward place to be in, so I evade that by letting these books be urban fantasy superheroic thrillers that are set in the United States, but it’s a willfully nebulous American ideal (itself a problem we wrestle with daily—I could go on and on about that, what America actually stands for)—I write about an idea of America, in a world far removed from our own, where there are actual superheroes, from the perspective of an everyman do-gooder who’s got no powers greater than his powers of observation.

NP: It sounds like a blast!

DN: BRIGHTEYES was so much fun to write, and I hope my sense of humor and fun translates to what I wrote. I really want it to find its audience, and for them to relish the ride. I’ll be happy if fans draw their own versions of the Shutterclique members and do character cosplay! That’ll feel like a major win.

NP: Thanks for taking the time to talk with us! BRIGHTEYES is available now in paperback, hardcover, and case laminate!


Tell us about your latest book.

My latest book is a short story collection entitled, THE THING IN YELLOW—it’s a collection of thirteen short stories written in homage to the Robert Chambers book, THE KING IN YELLOW, which came out in 1895.

What’s it about?

DTN: I love THE KING IN YELLOW—I think Chambers managed to touch on some fascinating cosmic horror and weird fictional insights in his book. Themes of madness, the cursed play (of course), artistic decadence, and the cosmic grandiosity of the King in Yellow—all of that have made his work heavily influential on other writers of weird fiction, particularly HP Lovecraft, among many others.

I had this idea a few years ago to craft my own collection that uses the King in Yellow mythos in newer, more modern, even postmodern kinds of contexts. That’s how THE THING IN YELLOW came about. Each story explores that mythos in different ways, and offers up explorations of all sorts of things—artists and their creations, cultural preoccupations and fad/fan culture, madness (of course), art and artists, decadence, corruption, decay, and so forth. And I put all sorts of narrative zigzags in there, where one story might refer to something (or someone) in another story, so there are kind of easter eggs peppered throughout the collection. That was great fun for me, and makes the book work as a collection of weird tales, and as something larger.

Maybe it’s post-weird fiction, I don’t know. For anyone living today, what’s weird? Everything’s weird. Or everything’s so ordinary that it’s weird. It’s easy to be jaded in 21st-century America, honestly, which is pretty weird, when you scratch the surface a bit.

What makes weird fiction weird, and why does it appeal to you?

Weird fiction historically refers to speculative, especially horror fiction that tossed aside conventional tropes in favor of transgressive narratives that left readers in a, well, weird place. I half-jokingly call it “tentaclecore” because of the primacy of tentacles as the go-to appendage of weird fiction, a sort of mascot most famously embodied in Cthulhu. I have toyed with tentaclecore in my novella, RELICT, as well as my novel, CHOSEN—so, there’s some weird skin in the game for me. What can I say? I’m a sucker for tentacles!

That said, what I always liked about THE KING IN YELLOW was how Chambers channeled the weird in a more elusive, subtle, and understated way that was still haunting, hypnotic, and horrifying. The Yellow King is a far more shadowy and elusive entity than Cthulhu. I mean, people have made plushies of Cthulhu, for elder god’s sake! Nobody in their right mind would do that for the King in Yellow, which says to me that’s because the King still manages to give people the creeps.
The reason why the first season of TRUE DETECTIVE had so much power, beyond, of course, the great performances by the leads and the storytelling, was because it tapped into the Chambers mythos, just little hints and brushstrokes of the weird and cosmic horror. I love that about that. It elevated it from being simply a police story or a narrative of damaged men struggling with the contradictory challenges of American manhood to something far more cosmic in scope.
THE THING IN YELLOW is a collection of macabre tales, occult supernatural stories that offer still more glimpses of Carcosa, the Yellow Sign, the Pallid Mask, the King in Yellow, and the toxicity of the King’s evil as relates to human beings, going through their daily lives. Our lives are so steeped in the mundane day-to-day of social media and 24/7 connectivity that it’s easy to lose focus on the cosmic, even as that digital existence can lead a person to feel very small and insignificant, indeed. THE THING IN YELLOW wraps that existence in the tattered yellow finery of the Yellow King and toys with it in contemporary settings.
I willfully play with and name “yellowcore” in the collection, because there’s something particularly sinister to me in the marketing of madness and cosmic horror, and that’s an area ripe for further exploration, above and beyond what I put in these stories.


Sounds intense!

It is, in a more quietly atmospheric way. THE THING IN YELLOW doesn’t offer up characters to the ever-running woodchipper of contemporary horror; rather, it’s more of a diabolical dance with unseen (or only partly-seen) forces that are, at least within the confines of the story, very real, but resist being directly glimpsed.

For me, that’s always more interesting, much the way a ghost story, while light on gore, can serve up genuine chills. The chills in my collection are more analytic in their implications, and I think readers who enjoy “reading between the lines” may find all sorts of horrors and terrors lurking just beneath the surface, which is in keeping with the King in Yellow mythos. Madness is the flip side of reason, and the two carry out their danse macabre in this way, and who knows which one leads?

I know that I had a great time writing these stories, and found them immersive and oddly transfixing (itself a very meta experience for anyone writing about the King in Yellow), and I hope readers will, too, especially fans of this mythos. And for people who haven’t ever read THE KING IN YELLOW, I think if they stumble onto my collection, it’ll help them find their way to the Chambers book and appreciate it even more. Which they absolutely should.


Tell us about THE CURSED EARTH.

THE CURSED EARTH is a cosmic folk horror comedy thriller novel set in the forests of Pennsylvania. It centers around the fictional town of Lynchburg, which is heavily involved in mushroom farming. That’s a big business in Pennsylvania, and I thought it was a rich source of inspiration. There’s basically this group of gang members in hiding in a gated community—they’re on the run from the authorities in Pittsburgh—and they’re in need of money, so they come up with a plan to extort the local Nightcap Mushroom Farm, a successful business near Lynchburg. This takes place close to the Fungus Festival, a big mid-September event for the town, which draws a lot of outsiders to the community. There are a number of characters and subplots to this story, but that’s the dark heart of it. Things get pretty crazy once the outsiders cross paths with the locals of Lynchburg.

I didn’t plan on it being comedic, and it’s definitely NOT a parody of folk horror—but I have a dark sense of humor, and I think a lot of that bled into the pages of this novel (pun intended). I’m a fan of writers like Ira Levin, Joseph Heller, and others, and found the horror and the humor flowed together in this book. Terrible things happen to unfortunate people, but there’s also an aura of absurdity and insanity in it that I just ran with. Anybody living in America these days can relate to the braiding of laughter and horror, honestly, and I think I captured it in this book. Readers should find plenty to be terrified and horrified by this one, but also plenty of things that should make them laugh, too.


What do you like about folk horror?

I find the countryside fascinating and haunting. America is such a massive country, with so much land, I feel like there’s abundant terrain to explore. Having spent most of my life in the big city (Chicago), but having grown up in the Rust Belt (Youngstown, Ohio) I’m very accustomed to the pace of urban life.

Folk horror thrives in those rural settings, and it draws me because it’s a very alien place. I try to push the subgenre of folk horror into different areas—hence my delving into mushroom farming, which seemed naturally chthonic and both vibrant and full of life and also bound up to death and decay. Pennsylvania has a really great landscape, and I ran with that. The atmospheric nature of folk horror entices me as well. There are motifs with it, symbols and imagery that are intrinsically creepy. I dig that.

I ran with mushroom farming for this novel because I thought it might bring a nice angle to the fairly standard fields-n-farms perspective of folk horror. It helps that Pennsylvania has a major mushroom farming industry, so it made it the natural locale for the story, and since I have a lot of history with Pennsylvania (including family in the region), I played with that as the setting, did a ton of research on mushroom farming and on mushroom species, etc. That all flowed into the book.


What are you working on next?

I have a lot of writing projects lined up over the next three years. I usually keep a lid on my TBD projects, but I have a number of books I’m working on, including some paranormal thrillers, a couple of folk horror novels (or novellas), as well as a third nautical horror novella (or novel) that’s trying to slither to life (RELICT and DAY OF THE NIGHTFISH being the other two, both Nosetouch Press novellas). There’s always a pile of projects lined up for me, and I just work my way through them, one at a time.

Tell us about NORM.

NORM is the final book in the Wolfshadow Trilogy, wrapping up something I started a decade ago with SAAMAANTHAA, the first book in the series. I’m really happy to revisit characters from the first two books, including Ansel Rupino, Polly Drinkwater, and Dr. Mina Milkowski, as well as to introduce readers to new characters like Norm Stockwell.

NORM is much more of a horror-thriller in the vein of THE HAPPENING, the second book in the series, although I think it has some of the emotional pull of SAAMAANTHAA, as well. It’s been a journey.


Why werewolves?

They’re such a classic horror archetype. When I originally wrote SAAMAANTHAA, people were still fairly enamored of vampires, and I always thought werewolves got kind of short shrift. So, I wanted to do justice to werewolves in a way that was both horrifying and fun. The archetype endures because people can relate to wrestling with their animal natures, but I also wanted to play with it, see where it could take me.


Where did it take you?

The story ripped through a lot of characters, to be honest. Werewolves are messy. I think Samantha says that at one point in the first book, and she wasn’t wrong. That messiness is both the fun of them and the challenge of rendering them credibly in fiction. I think it’s funny in that Samantha was determined to stand apart from her peers and be special, and saw lycanthropy as her magic ticket. We see the terrible effects of that in the first book, as well as in the second one. 

It all sort of goes full circle by the time we get to NORM, where there’s a real drive to return things to what passes for normal in America. While SAAMAANTHAA came out in 2011, and THE HAPPENING in 2015, I feel like there are a lot of parallels with what we’re dealing with in 2021, in terms of dealing with the aftereffects of a global pandemic. I think the series captures a lot of the challenges we face as a country, as a people, as a culture, when confronted with something horrifying and horrible.


What other projects do you have?

I’ve written two nautical horror-thriller novellas, RELICT (2013) and THE DAY OF THE NIGHTFISH (2020) that have been well-received by readers. I have a third one in mind that I’d like to tackle within the next two years. There’s something about nautical horror that appeals to me. Probably because I consider the ocean pretty terrifying. I have a few other projects rattling around in my head, but we’ll see where they lead.


What’s your favorite ice cream?

My all-time favorite is Handel’s Chocolate Pecan. That’s just such good stuff. I almost never have it, but fondly remember it. If you’ve never had it, you should. It’s just the best.

My other favorite flavors are mint chocolate chip and pistachio — I have a weird thing for green ice cream, I guess. I very rarely have ice cream around because I’ll totally eat it if it’s there. Sometimes I compromise by getting gelato, which feels somewhat less bad to eat. It’s practically health food (haha).